WASHINGTON - The Federal Election Commission voted Thursday to let Rep. Gabrielle Giffords use about $2,200 in campaign funds for security improvements at her Texas home.
Ruling that the January shooting of the Tucson Democrat and subsequent threats stem "from her activities as a member of Congress," the FEC determined that the move would not violate regulations against expenditures for personal use.
"This was perhaps the easiest request that we've gotten in the last three years," said Ellen Weintraub, an FEC commissioner. "And the only question I heard anybody ask was how fast we can answer it."
If not for a mandatory 10-day public comment period, the FEC would have approved it within 24 hours, she said.
Giffords has been rehabilitating in Houston since January when she was shot in the head during a public event in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 12 others.
After conducting a security assessment of Giffords' home in Houston, U.S. Capitol Police recommended better exterior lighting, locks throughout the home and the installation of an alarm button, according to the FEC advisory opinion.
The ruling follows FEC precedent. The commission let Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., in 2009 and Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., earlier this year use campaign funds for home-security measures recommended by Capitol Police following threats to their safety.
Capitol Police are responsible for ensuring the protection and security of members of Congress. Sometimes these duties take officers off Capitol Hill, said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a department spokeswoman.
She said agents are currently with Giffords in Texas, where the congresswoman is living with her husband, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
"If the Capitol Police have made a recommendation, we don't second-guess that," said FEC Chairwoman Cynthia Bauerly. "If someone just decides ... that they want to make some improvements on their home because they think it might help with the resale value, then that would be a very different case."
Giffords was recently released into outpatient rehabilitation for her injuries, which allows her stay at home while not undergoing treatment. She consulted with the FEC for guidance on what options were available to pay for securing her home, said Mark Kimble, her spokesman.
"This is something that's going to come up for quite a while since she's the first congresswoman who's been the target of an assassination attempt," Kimble said.
Max Levy is a reporter for Cronkite News Service.